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Domestic Violence: Post-Separation Violence
Systems, service providers, and the community must be ready to address the ongoing possibility of harm that exists for victims of domestic violence when they are no longer residing or involved with their abusive partner.
Victims have reported that after separation, their former partners have stalked, harassed, verbally and emotionally abused, beaten, and sexually assaulted them. Thus, when a victim is pursuing a protection order, a divorce, or taking other steps to extricate herself from an abusive relationship, is an extremely dangerous time period.
After separation, children remain the link between the battering and abused parent.
Custody and visitation arrangements are potentially dangerous for both the abused parent and children. Post-separation acts of violence are not solely directed toward the former partner. Other targets commonly include children, the spouse’s new partner, and individuals identified as aligning with the former partner.
The legal system is
effectively used by batterers as a way to exert and maintain
control over a victim through continual litigation on child
custody and visitation issues. Litigation is an opportunity
to reassert the control batterers feel themselves losing as
the relationship ends. Batterers can attempt to intimidate
their partners by threatening to take the children away (for
example, by making false reports to the Department of Child
and Family Services (or equivalent), kidnapping, or
maintaining ongoing litigation around custody or
parent-child contact) and countering such actions can be
financially devastating for victims. Hence, courts and
professionals can inadvertently become tools for batterers
to continue their abusive behavior.
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